Even if Alexander Carter-Silk's message was sexist, his punishment in no way fits his crime

Having met the man along with two female colleagues, I've been shocked at his treatment

William Erskine
Sunday 13 September 2015 19:20
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"It's impossible for Carter-Silk to ignore what she has done, and what the media has made of it – it now defines who he is online, and will likely follow him to his grave."
"It's impossible for Carter-Silk to ignore what she has done, and what the media has made of it – it now defines who he is online, and will likely follow him to his grave."

Alexander Carter-Silk is a senior barrister at a top city firm; if you’d googled him a week ago, that’s pretty much all you would have found out, although you may have come across some arcane articles on intellectual property law, or a few corporate headshots. But nothing to excite any interest. If you google Carter-Silk now however, corporate platitudes have been replaced with emotive slogans, and talk of “sexism”, “misogyny” and “feminazis”.

During my time working in the world of intellectual property, I’ve come across Carter-Silk, and once had a long lunch with him. Professionally he seemed affable, articulate and perhaps a little eccentric. He didn't seem like a rampant misogynist, and said nothing that I or my two female colleagues at the meal considered offensive. He did have an unfortunate habit of talking with his mouth full though. Perhaps, you could surmise, that he was using the food to plug a stream of comments against women. But then again, probably not.

I accept that you can’t even begin to know a person’s character over a long lunch, but then, if that’s the case, can any concrete conclusions be drawn from a short and hastily typed message on LinkedIn? That’s exactly what has happened in the press over the last week. The middle ground was hastily evacuated, and journalists sought to either demonise Carter-Silk as a leery old git, or venerate him as a martyr to political correctness gone mentally ill. And all in order to further some hackneyed political point.

Carter-Silk is neither of these things: he is a man whose libido led him to be indiscreet on social media. His comments were undoubtedly regressive, quite possibly sexist, but they were an aberration, one for which he has been judged extremely harshly. Even if you feel his comments were offensive, if you honestly compare the level of distress his message caused to the distress caused by Charlotte Proudman's public denunciation, do you really think there is any parity? Proudman says she has received similar messages before and ignored them. But it's impossible for Carter-Silk to ignore what she has done, and what the media has made of it – it now defines who he is online, and will likely follow him to his grave.

I don’t think Proudman is a “feminazi”, whatever that may mean. Reading about her she sounds like a mix between Atticus Finch and Emmeline Pankhurst. But I do think that in her attempt to highlight everyday sexism she treated him very unfairly.

The author's name has been changed

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